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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Overview :

Officially termed post-traumatic stress disorder since 1980, PTSD was once known as shell shock or battle fatigue because of its more common manifestation in war veterans. However in the past 20 years, PTSD has been diagnosed in rape victims and victims of violent crime; survivors of natural disasters; the families of loved ones lost in the downing of Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland; and survivors of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, the random school and workplace shootings, and the release of poisonous gas in a Japanese subway; and, most recently, in the September 11, 2001, World Trade Center and Pentagon terrorist attacks. PTSD can affect adults of all ages. Statistics gathered from past events indicate that the risk of PTSD increases in order of the following factors.

  • female gender
  • middle-aged (40 to 60 years old)
  • little or no experience coping with traumatic events
  • ethnic minority
  • lower socioeconomic status (SES)
  • children in the home
  • women with spouses exhibiting PTSD symptoms
  • pre-existing psychiatric conditions
  • primary exposure to the event including injury, life-threatening situation, and loss
  • living in traumatized community

For example, over a third of the Oklahoma City bombing survivors developed PTSD and over half showed signs of anxiety, depression, and alcohol abuse. Over one year later, Oklahomans in general had a increased use of alcohol and tobacco products, as well as PTSD symptoms.

Children are also susceptible to PTSD and their risk is increased exponentially as their exposure to the event increases. Children experiencing abuse, the death of a parent, or those located in a community suffering a traumatic event can develop PTSD. Two years after the Oklahoma City bombing, 16% of children in a 100 mile radius of Oklahoma City with no direct exposure to the bombing had increased symptoms of PTSD. Weak parental response to the event, having a parent suffering from PTSD symptoms, and increased exposure to the event via the media all increase the possibility of the child developing PTSD symptoms.

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